Bianka Panova (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano
1985 World Championships: 3rd AA, 1st ribbon
1986 European Championships: 1st AA
1987 World Championships: 1st AA, 1st rope (tie), 1st hoop (tie), 2nd ball (tie)
1988 European Championships: 5th AA
1988 Olympics: 4th AA
1988 DTB Cup: 1st AA
1989 World Championships: 1st T, 2nd AA (prelims)
plus, three-time National Bulgarian Champion!
Results compiled from Alex's Rhythmic Gymnastics

Considered one of the most talented rhythmic gymnasts of all time, Bianka Panova is also one of the most versatile, able to perform exercises of great difficulty, originality, and character. More than any other gymnast, Bianka has proven herself adept at all styles of routines, from upbeat and fun to dynamic and exciting to slow and dramatic.

A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Bianka was born on May 27, 1970. She was chosen at a young age to begin serious training, and later became the three-time national champion of Bulgaria -- no small feat in a country where the nationals were as difficult to win as Worlds. At the age of 15 she won her first gold medal at the 1985 World Championships for a gorgeously elegant ribbon routine. Between 1985 and 1989, Bianka would win 9 golds, 2 silvers, and 1 bronze in world competition, including her sweep of all 5 golds at the 1987 Worlds Championships. But when the Olympics finally rolled around in 1988, Bianka found herself in an unusual position: underdog. Disagreements with Bulgarian head coach Neshka Robeva caused a rift between the two, and Bianka felt she was not prepared well for the Seoul Olympics. Once at the Games, Bianka gave away her shot at a medal by uncharacteristically dropping a club at the end of her extremely intricate exercise. Despite a perfect 40.00 in the final round, she finished a disappointing fourth behind Marina Lobatch (USSR), Bulgarian teammate Adriana Dunavska, and Alexandra  Timochenko (USSR).

Bianka Panova retired from rhythmic gymnastics in 1989 and turned to coaching in Italy. She trained Italian champion Katia Pietrosanti to one of Italy’s only medals in World Championship competition. However, Bianka still felt unfulfilled and set her sights a comeback; unfortunately, she did not make the cut for the 1992 Bulgarian Olympic team. She returned to coaching in 1993, this time in Belgium, and her gymnasts competed in two European and three World Championships. 

These days, Bianka concentrates on artistic gymnastics and acrobatics choreography. She is head coach at the Happy Gym club in Ghent, Belgium and is responsible for many of Belgium's finest athletes, among them National Champion Elke De Backer. She has also introduced her own method of flexibility conditioning for non-gymnast athletes.

Bianka and her husband, Tchavdar Ninor (physiotherapist and now physician), have two sons, Richard and Steven. 

For more information on Bianka and her storied career visit Bianka's Web site.

Panova was born in May 27, 1970.

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1999-2002. This page was created on June 5th, 1999 and last updated July 4, 2001.


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